A crisis of confidence: women coaches' responses to their engagement in resistance
Abstract: This study centres upon the accounts of master women coaches based in the UK, exploring how they have individually experienced such acts of resistance as reaching the top of such a male dominated profession. By going beyond previous positivist feminist approaches to this focus of inquiry, I employ a feminist cultural studies framework to understand how the social construction of what it means to be a woman impacts women coaches' individual sense of self and confidence to lead. The discussions are based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with six senior national women coaches of team sports in the UK. The data highlight the success of masculine hegemony of coaching through documenting women's reluctance to advance their coaching career through a lack of self-belief and motivation as a consequence of their culturally and historically marginal position. The findings illustrate a pressing need for a revision of the dominant values inherent in professional sport in order to engage and retain potential wome...
Summary (2 min read)
- The number of collegiate men’s teams with a woman head coach remains near the same figure as it was in 1972 at approximately 3% (Acosta & Carpenter, 2012).
- Statistics reveal that 82% of qualified coaches, i.e. coaches that hold a qualification in the sport they coach, are men (Sports Coach, 2011) and at the time of conducting the research, within the national squads of team sports within the UK, only nine teams had a woman head coach compared to 43 male head coaches.
- Within this article, I explore the previous categoric and distributive research to understand their explanations for women’s position within coaching.
- From an exploration of previous literature, this leads me into offering an alternative view for this research field, explaining the methodology adopted for the research.
Previous explanations for the Underrepresentation of Women in Coaching
- Previous studies that have investigated women’s under-representation in sport have provided a variety of reasons to explain this dearth of women.
- Yet, within the conclusions of such research, the authors have often conceded that social conditions or some form of systematic discrimination may be an influence rather than individual traits.
- Overall, it was found that male and female athletes always rated the man coach as the same or more favourably than the woman coach (Parkhouse & Williams, 1986).
- Women subsequently leave the profession because they lack control of the direction of their coaching (Knoppers, 1994).
The Need for an Alternative Theoretical Approach
- The major criticism of much of the existing research related to women’s underrepresentation in coaching is the lack of socio-historical contextualisation to the research.
- Therefore, a crucial element missing to such research is a thorough and critical engagement with power, and how cultural relations as well as orders are created and contested.
- All interviews were taperecorded and analysed using the constant comparison method of data coding (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
- Such a technique is popular with feminist researchers who seek to ensure that their study is respectful towards and appreciative of the participants’ experiences (Olesen, 2000) and as an effective method of maintaining that the findings correspond with the experiences and perspectives of the participants (Bryman, 2004).
- Secondly, I present the accounts of the participants that highlight how the cultural expectations of women in sport impacts women’s progression through coaching and how the male dominated culture of sport suffocates women’s desire to coach.
Self-identity: Confidence and Conflict
- The agreement between the national women coaches was that many aspiring and developing women coaches cannot challenge the patriarchal control of coaching and sports leadership because they do not believe in themselves as leaders.
- Such is the intricacy and complexity of historically gendered cultural expectations, that for women who want to become leaders in their sport “such firmly embedded expectations are difficult to overcome” (Miner, 1993, p. 44).
- Such expectations are detrimental to women building their sense of self-efficacy as coaches to contest for more senior roles, as Ruth has observed amongst women coaches in her sport:.
- Therefore, women have often learnt the role of subordinate and as Ferguson (1995, p. 377) contends, this “role can easily become self-perpetuating”, thus reinforcing their status.
- Paradoxically, for the participants without children and / or partner, they were made to feel ‘abnormal’.
Discussion and Conclusion
- This study reveals some of the responses from women coaches to the cultural expectations of femininity and the socially accepted role of being a woman.
- What emerges from the research are women’s feelings of low self-confidence and reluctance to advance themselves, as well as bearing a burden of guilt when they do.
- The oppression of women in sport, as the theory of hegemony informs us, is not achieved through overt forms of discrimination but rather more subtle, insidious power relations (Halford & Leonard, 2001).
- Furthermore, women’s engagement in individual acts of resistance, such as the participants in this study, should be collected rather than solely examining episodic patterns of discrimination (Halford & Leonard, 2001).
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Cites background or result from "A crisis of confidence: women coach..."
...The finding of the present study builds on and updates previous work within this subject area that has shown that women coaches report feeling left out of (predominantly male) power networks, that the strength of the ‘old boys’ club is detrimental to women’s professional progression, and working relationships with male coaching colleagues are often strained (e.g. Allen and Shaw, 2013; Knoppers and Anthonissen, 2001; Lovett and Lowry, 1994; Norman, 2012)....
...…in which they feel that their contributions will be valued, recognised and developed, echoing a finding from earlier work in this subject area related to women coaches and leaving the profession (e.g. Cunningham and Sagas, 2003; Lovett and Lowry, 1997; Norman, 2012; Sagas and Ashley, 2001)....
...…male) power networks, that the strength of the ‘old boys’ club is detrimental to women’s professional progression, and working relationships with male coaching colleagues are often strained (e.g. Allen and Shaw, 2013; Knoppers and Anthonissen, 2001; Lovett and Lowry, 1994; Norman, 2012)....
...Other means of segregation include the sexualisation and trivialising of women as athletes and as coaches (e.g. Cooky et al., 2010; Cranmer et al., 2014; Norman, 2008, 2010, 2012)....
...…unequal ideas of coaching competence, lower self-confidence, poor working conditions and sexism interconnected with homophobia and racism (e.g. Allen and Shaw, 2013; Fielding-Lloyd and Mean, 2011; Kilty, 2006; LaVoi and Dutove, 2012; Norman, 2010, 2012; Rankin-Wright, 2015; Shaw and Slack, 2002)....
"A crisis of confidence: women coach..." refers methods in this paper
...All interviews were taperecorded and analysed using the constant comparison method of data coding (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)....
...Kanter (1977) has described this as ‘homologous reproduction’ and this provided the basis of Cunningham and Sagas’ (2003b) study that found that those in powerful positions appoint similar individuals to themselves....